Keeping your semi-truck and trailer in top working condition is paramount to staying safe on the road and keeping maintenance costs in check. Frequent stops for repairs or other inconveniences can impact your livelihood as it takes up precious time and money.
Performing regular daily checks on your equipment is critical to the extending the life of your asset. It will also help you detect any changes in the performance to minimize repair costs.
For example, if your fuel efficiency has decreased, your tire wear patterns are uneven, or the steering is suddenly veering to one side, your commercial truck could be out of alignment.
What is semi-truck alignment?
Every new semi-truck arrives with wheels aligned according to the manufacturer's specifications. Proper alignment means that the wheels are perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other.
There's nothing like driving a brand new semi-trailer with perfectly aligned wheels. It feels smooth on the road, turns more effortlessly, and responds to steering with ease.
As time goes on, however, and your semi-truck ages, your wheels can end up misaligned from general wear and tear, and minor mishaps like hitting curbs, or a major accident with impact.
Why is wheel alignment important?
A misaligned semi-truck will experience increased resistance, causing the tires to drag and wear out unevenly. This can lead to increased fuel consumption as the engine has to work harder to overcome the increased resistance.
In addition to fuel efficiency, proper alignment also improves the truck's safety, handling, and stability on the road.
To keep your semi-trailer or refrigerator truck safe on the road, get the alignment checked regularly by a professional and make any necessary adjustments promptly to avoid further damage and potential costly repairs.
What causes semi truck misalignment?
Various factors, including normal wear and tear, can cause wheel misalignment on your heavy-duty truck. But, there are external factors that can impact it, as well. Below are a few things that can impact semi-truck alignment:
As a commercial semi-truck driver, you've most likely encountered every road condition, from smooth, freshly paved highways to gravel roads with craters the size of a house. It's these changes in road conditions that can have a significant impact on the wheel alignment of your truck.
Potholes can cause a sudden jolt to the wheels, causing them to move out of alignment. This is particularly true for larger potholes that can cause significant damage to the truck's suspension system and steering components.
Rough roads and uneven surfaces can also cause misalignment. Repeatedly subjecting the wheels of your semi-trailer to bouncing and vibration, the suspension and steering components can be forced out of their optimal position, leading to misalignment.
In addition to causing misalignment, poor road conditions can also accelerate the wear and tear of your suspension system and steering components, leading to further issues in the future. You can minimize the impact of road conditions on alignment by driving carefully and avoiding potholes or other road hazards whenever possible.
Regular maintenance, such as tire rotation and alignment checks, can also help to detect and correct misalignment issues before they cause significant problems.Accidents
Any impact to your semi-truck can cause significant damage to the suspension system and steering components, leading to misalignment.
If you've been in an accident, or regularly hit curbs, make sure you get your trailer alignment checked by a professional semi-truck mechanic.
Improper installation of parts
If you endeavor to install new parts in your semi-truck, ensure you install them correctly. You might be surprised to learn how many professional truck drivers attempt to save a few bucks and work on their own trucks, only to discover they installed them incorrectly.
For example, if the tie rods are improperly installed, the wheels may not be aligned with each other, which can cause them to point in different directions. This can cause the truck to pull to one side, resulting in uneven tire wear patterns.
Similarly, if the ball joints are wrong, the wheels may not be able to move smoothly, which can cause vibration and shaking in the truck.
Regularly overloading your semi-truck can put a significant amount of strain on the suspension and cause misalignment.
If you often carry heavy payloads, keep an eye on your tire treads and make a note of anything odd, like the outer edges or center wearing out unevenly.
Improper tire inflation
Different driving conditions require changes in tire pressure. And when the tires on your semi-trailer are not inflated to the proper pressure, they can become unevenly worn and develop irregular wear patterns, which can cause the wheels to become misaligned.
Underinflation can cause tires to develop a "cupping" pattern. The tread wears down in patches rather than evenly across the tire surface. This can cause vibrations and shaking in the truck, affecting alignment.
When a tire is overinflated, the center of the tread may wear down more quickly than the edges. This can cause the tire to become more rounded and decrease the surface area in contact with the road, reducing stability and handling.
Check for wear patterns and tread depth to help detect early warning signs of misalignment.
How to prevent semi-trailer alignment issues
Maintaining your semi-truck alignment is crucial in ensuring even tire wear and improving fuel efficiency. Poor alignment can cause uneven tread wear, resulting in premature replacement of tires and increased fuel consumption due to increased rolling resistance — both are added expenses that you can easily avoid.
The best thing you can do to prevent the adverse effects of misalignment is to have your semi-truck alignment checked regularly by a professional mechanic or technician. This can help to detect and correct misalignment issues before they cause significant problems.
Here are the general steps involved in aligning a semi-truck:
- Inspect the tires for wear and check the air pressure to ensure they are at the correct level.
- Check the suspension system for wear or damage, which can affect alignment.
- Use a specialized alignment machine to measure the current alignment of the truck's wheels, including camber, caster, and toe.
- Adjust the alignment settings as needed based on the manufacturer's specifications and the measurement results from the alignment machine.
- Test drive your truck to ensure it is operating smoothly and handling correctly.
- Recheck the alignment after a few hundred miles to ensure it's still within the manufacturer's specifications.
Additionally, driving carefully and avoiding road hazards can help reduce the risk of misalignment caused by poor road conditions.
Reduce Costs By Staying On Top of Alignments
Making sure your trailer is aligned can reduce the cost of operating your equipment. Check out this video, which is from 2018 but has relevant information.
Misaligned tires can cause excessive wear and tear on tires, leading to frequent replacements and heightened fuel consumption. By regularly aligning tires, operators can prevent premature wear, resulting in improved fuel economy and long-term savings. Additionally, proper alignment can also improve the safety of your vehicle by ensuring that it handles and responds correctly on the road.
Visit us at one of our CRTS locations to align your tires with BeeLine parts.
Maintain your semi truck alignment with CRTS
Aligning a semi-truck requires specialized equipment and expertise and is best performed by a professional mechanic.
To enhance the longevity of your semi-truck tires and improve fuel consumption, stop in at one of five CRTS locations in the South Atlantic Region, United States.
We have qualified semi-truck and trailer mechanics on staff and are proud to help keep truck drivers like you safe on the road, and help you save money.
Along with keeping your semi-truck in tip-top shape, we can help you get into a new or used semi-trailer if the time has come to retire your trailer.
Reach out today and find out how CRTS can help keep your semi-truck aligned, and save money on tires and fuel.